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Friday, April 23, 2010

Non Fiction Triangle

Several years ago, I attended a creative non-fiction writing workshop in Franklin, TN. I left the workshop with new stories swirling in my mind and my fingers aching to get to my keyboard. The workshop, hosted by “The Council of the Written Word” guild, was wonderful and if the information I gained by participating in these classes had been chocolate; I would now weigh over 200 pounds. The guest non-fiction authors, Lynne Bachleda, Lucas Boyd and Darnell Arnoult, interacted with the attending writers. They were friendly and willing to answer questions. Here are so of the questions asked.

1. Lynne Bachleda is a freelance researcher and writer, her question was; “If you could only read one type of book for the rest of your life what would it be, fiction or non-fiction?”

She then divided the class into groups of threes and gave each member of the groups a number 1, 2 or 3. Number 1 had to tell number 2 why she chose fiction or non-fiction and then it was 2 turn to tell 1; during this time number 3 had to listen to both. Then Ms. Bachleda asked the 3’s to tell the group what their 1 & 2 said. The results were amazing.

One lady stated just what the two had said but add editors of her feelings like “I think they explain or I feel that”, one man stated what he heard and both 1 & 2 said that was not what they said and finally my group 3 relayed what we had said and I felt compelled to add to her statement to justify what she was saying. We all were a little confused by this exercise, until Ms Bachleda pointed out her reason for this exercise.

A. Non-fiction has the author’s personality and comments, so does this still make it non-fiction. Yes, and in most cases it makes the non-fiction piece more interesting.
B. Non-fiction will always have controversy because not everyone will hear or perceive facts the same.
C. Non-fiction will be acknowledged differently by your readers and not everyone will get it.

2. How can I write a non-fiction manuscript and make it interesting?

This question was asked of Ms. Darnell Arnoult, an instructor of creative writing and a member of the Duke Writers Workshop faculty. Her answer was; “By using the tools of good fiction writing (well-developed characters, vivid setting, plot line, dialogue, strong story telling voice, and metaphor) you can create an honest and artful narrative of a true event that is a joy to read.”

Finally, I would like to share the Memoir Triangle that was presented at this workshop. Draw a triangle, at one of the points write How the event really happened, at the second point write How you remember the event and at the third point write How you will create the narrative of this event. In the center of the triangle write Meanings and truths. All the points touch the meanings and truths and your job as a writer is to write a good story using those meanings and truths. Listen to other family members and search your soul for the truths then write what you remember as you remember it. The most asked question was “How do I write my memoirs without hurting my family?” The answer was; “It is hard to do but if one of the characters of your memoir is not presented in a favorable light, change the physical look of that character so the family member will not recognize it as them. Say Aunt Sadie had long straight black hair, make her have short curly red hair. The event is still non-fiction and a memoir, the appearance of the character is the only thing changed.

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